In this multimedia age, text description raises the question of how different perceptual modalities and different semiotic systems actually interact. The semiotic paradigm could soon replace the computational paradigm, especially as a means of modeling text understanding. The field of automatic language processing has encountered a number of difficulties because the semantic theories it relies on do not take into account recent advances in linguistic semantics. In particular, a text cannot be reduced to a string of characters or to a series of instructions. Texts, which can even encompass expert interviews and technical documents, are in fact cultural objects. Interpreting them consequently requires a detailed description of textual genres, communicative conditions, and the language used. Where a positivist approach has proven unsuccessful, a rational hermeneutics can offer more suitable descriptive methods because it allows the theoretical and practical conditions of text interpretation to be defined. It provides a methodological framework capable of adapting corpus descriptions to the objectives of applications. Drawing on the most recent studies, this interdisciplinary work addresses itself as much to linguists as to computer scientists. Its didactic format, along with the concrete analyses it contains, also makes it accessible to students.
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